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Montauk restaurant operators arrested on state alcohol law violations, officials say

The Montauk Lighthouse on June 14, 2019.

The Montauk Lighthouse on June 14, 2019. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The operators of three Montauk restaurants were arrested by East Hampton town police on alcohol law violations amid enforcement of COVID-19 safety rules, while images of large crowds partying on Fire Island without face coverings over the weekend sparked fury across social media. 

The Montauk arrests were made in connection with violations of state alcohol laws dictating signage and storage of liquor. But police said they documented violations of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s “New York Forward” reopening plan during the series of inspections at many businesses.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said COVID-19 violations will be referred to the State Liquor Authority, which could revoke establishments’ liquor licenses.

Cuomo has warned that if establishments ignore public safety rules, the virus could surge, forcing him to roll back COVID-19 restrictions.

The three arrested were Richard Gibbs, the owner of Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe; Ruschmeyer’s owner Vincenzo Lentini; and Jeffrey Capri, the manager of Nick’s on the Beach, Van Scoyoc said. All three face misdemeanor charges.

“While the vast majority of businesses are operating safely, and are respectful of the potential threat from COVID-19, we cannot allow some to operate in ways that threaten the public health as well as the continued ability for other businesses to remain open,” Van Scoyoc said. 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Sunday that he was not aware of problems in Montauk, but he urged residents to follow all the governor's safety rules as Long Island prepares for Phase 4 next week. 

“It is important the public remembers that we are in the position we are in because people have followed the guidance,” Bellone said. “

Gibbs, Lentini and Capri could not be reached for comment.

Video and photos of crowds at several Montauk establishments will be referred by police to the SLA for potential charges under the governor’s executive order, Van Scoyoc said. 

Photos and video of large, tightly packed crowds socializing over the holiday weekend in Fire Island Pines, meanwhile, drew angry reactions after they went viral on social media. One video showed dozens of people without masks crowded around a backyard swimming pool, while a photo showed a crowd gathered on a beach. 

Suffolk police said they visited the community twice Saturday to break up the crowds and urge visitors to wear face coverings, and that the Marine Bureau planned to do the same Sunday. No summonses were issued, police said 

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine said the behavior "puts a lot of people at risk... I hope Suffolk police can respond in a forceful way to enforce the governor’s orders." 

Bellone said he was not aware of problems in Fire Island Pines.

 “If necessary we will ask people to leave the beach if they are not compliant, but generally people are compliant and they are happy to be back out and the reminder is all it takes to get people to comply,” Suffolk Police Chief of Department Stuart Cameron said.

With Lisa L. Colangelo


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